You’ve probably seen Jamie Oliver’s face on the Food Network, around the world, and all over Sobey’s Better Food to Canadians campaign. I remember the days when I’d watch his cooking show, Oliver’s Twist, where he would pump out incredibly simple dishes in a casual and laid back way. His kitchen on-set was fun and bright with bluish-purple walls and a collection of jars and containers for various spices, herbs, and dried goods. His personality was down-to-earth and it just seemed like he wanted to spread his knowledge about food with everyone.
Jamie’s Italian’s first Canadian restaurant has arrived in Toronto and I’m super stoked. Sally was back home for the holidays and of course we met up for dinner. We decided to head to Jamie’s Italian at Yorkdale after spending a chilly afternoon on the grounds of the Aga Khan Museum. The building draws in a number of Instagram photographers due to its stunning monochromatic and geometric structure. It’s an impressive work of art inside and out. After driving through the hectic parking lot at Yorkdale, we put down our phone number on the wait-list and headed over to the 3-story Forever21 for some much needed retail-therapy. Before we knew it, our table was waiting for us.
The interior was dark and rustic with a lot of wood paneling, old subway tiles, metal shelves, and moody lighting. From the front doors, the aroma of pasta sauce, spices, herbs, and cooked meats assaulted my nostrils and taste buds. We were seated between the antipasti bar and the kitchen, which meant we were surrounded by the smells of, well, basically everything delicious. The bar occupied the front area, looking out to the always-packed parking lot. The high ceilings really opened up the space for everyone to have a little bit of breathing room. Hanging cured meats decorated the space behind the bar where (I assume) all the anti-pasties and nibbles are prepared. Tables were quite small but it created an intimate atmosphere. Our server seemed really busy but still full of energy and enthusiasm. She suggested great dishes to try and would pop-in for quick conversations.
The menu is easy to read with a variety of mouth-watering items. Sally and I wanted to try a few items so we opted to get a few nibbles which were perfect for sharing.
We started with Crispy Squid ($10.95), Arancini Margherita ($8.50), and Ravioli Fritti ($6.95). It felt like I was eating at a table for ants because these three dishes filled our tiny table immediately. The Crispy Squid was tossed in chili, parsley, and fried garlic with a light garlic and lemon mayo. The beautiful splash of fresh lemon made the dish very exciting and the crispy exterior held up nicely. The Arancini Margherita rice balls were deep fried perfectly with a creamy and cheesy interior. The spicy arrabbiata sauce added a nice kick and punch of flavour. The least exciting appetizer was the Ravioli Fritti, the texture of the mini pockets of fried cheese were between a soft and almost-crispy shell making it a tad chewy. It was stuffed with mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Most of the flavours came from the fiery arrabbiatta dipping sauce.
Next to come was supposed to be our pasta dish. Knowing that we only ordered the smaller portion to share, we decided to add one more item to our meal, the Prosciutto and Pear Salad ($16.95). As the plates from our first course started to clear, our salad came to the table. Confused, we hesitated to bring it up to our waiter and waited until we finished our salad to ask about our pasta dish.
The thin slices of prosciutto almost melted in my mouth with minimal chewing. The salad was tossed with pecorino, honey, arugula, herbs, and roasted pine nuts. The sweetness from the pear balanced beautifully with the salty prosciutto and slightly bitter arugula. This was a good dish for sharing because it was pretty massive.
Still no sign of our pasta, we finally asked our waiter. The pasta was recorded for our table but she didn’t tell the kitchen to fire it because our table lacked space. That was the only dish I was looking-forward to devouring and it didn’t come because of the size of their tables. I was baffled and so was Sally. We ended up canceling the order because we were beyond stuffed from the previous four dishes. Honestly, that was really disappointing. We ordered the pasta along with the appetizers, I didn’t understand why the salad would come out before the pasta! I guess I’ll just have to come back another time to try out the pastas and pizzas. We ended up overloading our stomachs even more with dessert.
We finished our meal with tiramisu. Thin layers of coffee-soaked sponge cake with orange mascarpone topped with chocolate and orange zest. It was sweet, light, creamy, and satisfying. The orange notes were a fun and refreshing addition.
Our dinner experience was enjoyable, comforting, and relaxing. We stuffed our faces with yummy nibbles, appetizers, and sweets. Although there was a minor mix-up with our pasta, I still enjoyed most of the dishes. They were presented authentically and executed phenomenally. I loved that their menu focuses on real Italian dinner courses where pasta could be an appetizer or a main entree. There are many items to choose from that caters to all types of diets. You’ll find classic dishes from bruschetta and bolognese to exciting combinations like pork and fennel meatballs and fish-in-a-bag. For the charcuterie lovers out there, you can order planks of beautiful cured meats and seasonal vegetables. The prices are between average and steep for the amount of food you get. There’s a lot of explore on the menu and I suggest that you be adventurous!